A Short Guide on Environmental Management Systems for the Cannabis Industry

Written By: Dennis Ruhlin | Feb 13, 2023

Time to Read 6 Minutes

We discuss some environmental management system basics and how they can help the cannabis industry.

The recent legalization of cannabis, marijuana, hemp, whatever you would like to call it (and whatever you are growing and processing) in New Jersey (and across the country) has created an opportunity for a lot of exciting, new growth in a new industry. However, with this growth comes the age-old requirement of adhering to a bewildering variety of environmental regulations.

How do cultivators and processors of hemp and cannabis stay ahead of these regulations? With an environmental management system (EMS)! Without a solid, well-planned, well-documented EMS, staying ahead of requirements and complying with state (and Federal) environmental regulations can be a tricky task at a cannabis facility.

In this post, we'll take a closer look at what an EMS is, and why they're so important for the cannabis, hemp, or CBD industry.

Cannabis EMS

Do cannabis facilities need an environmental management system?

The short answer is no - there are no state requirements (or Federal) that dictate you NEED an EMS. So if you don't need an EMS at a hemp or marijuana facility, why would you want one?

Consider this - you likely have some sort of financial management system in place already. Maybe QuickBooks for your finances. Maybe you use a payroll processing system, or some type of point of sale if you grow, process, and sell cannabis. These systems aren't necessary, you could manually do things by hand, but it's 2023, who wants to do that?!

Environmental regulations can be some of the strictest, most confusing regulations companies ever have to deal with, so it's critical for cannabis facilities to prioritize compliance with applicable state (and Federal) rules and regulations. You can do that easier with an EMS.

What is an environmental management system?

An EMS is a systematic approach to managing environmental impacts, including setting goals, developing plans, implementing practices, and monitoring progress, just like a financial management system!

Operations inside and outside of the cannabis industry use environmental management systems for a variety of reasons. For some, it's a nice, neat way of keeping your dates, documents, and responsibilities organized. For others, it's a manner in which to track environmental performance with meaningful data and metrics.

As far as what they look like, the sky is the limit. Some are Excel workbooks linked to manually entered data, while others are comprehensive pieces of expensive software that can do everything you can imagine.

And, if you want to demonstrate that you're ahead of the crowd, what better way than with an ISO 14001 EMS, which is a global standard for demonstrating environmental regulatory compliance and performance?

So in short, an environmental management system for a marijuana or hemp facility can really be what you make of it. Expensive and outsourced or cheap and homemade. Something that just helps you keep your info organized, or a method in which to prove you are ahead of the curve and a true standout player in the cannabis industry.

Environmental Management System for a Cannabis Facility

How much would an environmental management system cost at a cannabis facility?

Completely depends on what you need. A homemade, Excel or Google Sheets document you put together in a few hours will cost you nothing more than your time. Conversely, a large EMS pulling in tons of data, being used for environmental tracking and ultimately seeking ISO14001 EMS certification could cost a few thousand to purchase, and a few more thousand to really get into and up and running. Tack in some consulting costs depending on what you want out of an EMS, and a realistic ballpark price for an environmental management system at a cannabis or hemp facility would be virtually nothing, to $10,000+, all depending on your needs.

How long does it take to get an EMS?

Again, it depends. If you started right now, you could get a simple document put together with some nice visuals and conditional formatting in a few hours. If you're looking to go the ISO14001 Environmental Management System route, expect a few months to implement and track data, with a couple more months to have a 3rd party auditor certify your program.

A Concept of An Environmental Management System for a Cannabis Facility.

Ok so what does this all mean? Here's some quick and simple ways in which an EMS could help a cannabis facility:

  1. Energy and Water Efficiency - Should you go for the gusto, an EMS can help you with implementing measures to reduce energy and water consumption, such as using energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems.

  2. Waste Management - Properly managing waste generated by the facility, including implementing recycling programs, composting, and safely disposing of hazardous waste, are all aspects of an EMS that could drastically help with your overall costs.

  3. Air Quality Management - Reducing air emissions from the facility through measures such as using low-emitting solvents and investing in emission control technology are things that could be identified through an EMS. In fact, this could also help certain cannabis operations more easily handle their air quality permits. This could also help with ID'ing things such as generator usage to help determine carbon footprint should you want to provide that information to the public or investors.

  4. Water Quality / Spill Response Management - Now depending on how the state you're operating in looks at your operations, it's not entirely out of the question whether they "could" make a cannabis facility obtain an NPDES Stormwater Permit. On top of that, if you have generators, and they have over a certain threshold of fuel in them, you will need what's called an SPCC Plan. Both of these regulations come with requirements you'll need to stay on top of, ranging from monthly inspections to annual submittals. An EMS can give your cannabis facility a friendly reminder that it's time to get things done in order to stay out of trouble!

Environmental Management System (EMS) for a Cannabis Facility

How to get started with an environmental management system at a CBD, hemp, or cannabis facility.

Implementing an EMS can have a number of benefits for cannabis facilities. It can help reduce operational costs by reducing resource consumption and waste generation. It can also improve the facility's reputation by demonstrating a commitment to environmental sustainability and compliance with state regulations. Additionally, it can provide a framework for continual improvement, allowing the facility to identify and address new environmental challenges as they arise.

All in all, it can help to show that you take your environmental regulations seriously, and are an overall positive member of the community you've set up shop in.

In conclusion, as cannabis production and use becomes more widespread across the United States, cannabis facilities need to prioritize sustainability and compliance with state regulations. Implementing an EMS is a critical step in this process, and can help minimize their environmental footprint, improve operational efficiency, and maintain a positive reputation. To learn more, reach out, we'd love to hear how we can help. Whether its environmental management system related or you have problems with other areas of compliance, we're here to help. Either fill out the form below to reach out to us directly, click here to contact us, call us anytime at 888-RMA-0230, or shoot us an email at info@rmagreen.com to talk.

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